This post is a guide to visiting Sausalito, a small town just north of San Francisco. We have a top 10 list of things to do including free activities.
- Top 10
- Getting There
- Bus + Walking Tours
- Ferries from San Francisco
- Where to Eat in Sausalito
- Free Tours by Foot
1. Take in Stunning Views from Vista Point
Though not located in Sausalito, Vista Point is a beautiful lookout spot that offers stunning views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge less a 15-minute drive from Sausalito.
It costs nothing to visit Vista Point if you have a car as there is free parking.
If you don't have a car, you can take public transportation from Sausalito or even walk there in under an hour (though it's a bit of a hike).
Also, many bus tours that visit Sausalito will stop at Vista Point along the way so that guests can capture the beautiful view.
Read our post on bus tours in San Francisco to learn which ones visit Vista Point.
2. Stroll the Sausalito Bridgeway Promenade
The Sausalito Bridgeway Promenade (sometimes referred to as the Sausalito Boardwalk) is a charming stretch of the city along the waterfront.
It's lined with several locally-owned shops and restaurants. You'll get great views of the San Francisco city skyline in the distance.
For a wine-tasting experience, stop by Real Napa, located on at 611 Bridgeway.
Though this area can get busy during the summer, it is well worth a visit.
3. Take the Ferry There or Back
For spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, and the San Francisco skyline, take the ferry from San Francisco and back again.
There are also several different boat tours and cruises that visit the area. Tours range from dinner cruises and tourist cruises to speedboat tours and water taxis.
Check out our post on San Francisco boat tours and cruises for a full list of options.
4. Take a Walking Tour
Sausalito is host to a couple of highly esteemed walking tours that share the city's history and incredible food culture.
Having developed into a bustling tourist destination in the decade following World War 11, Sausalito has a fascinating past that is best learned on a guided tour.
See our section below on walking tours.
Some San Francisco bus tours include a walking tour of Sausalito in their day trips.
5. Go to the Free Marine Mammal Center
The Marine Mammal Center is a non-profit educational center and veterinary research hospital that rescues ill and injured marine mammals. such as elephant seals, harbor seals, and California sea lions.
Admission is free, though donations are welcomed.
Though you will not be able to get close to any of these animals, you will learn a lot about the animals and the challenges they face.
If you want to get a closer look and learn about these beautiful creatures, you can take their docent-led tour or an audio tour.
Small group guided tours last 45 minutes. They cost $10 for adults, $5 for seniors (ages 65+), students (ages 5 to 17) and military personnel. Children 4 and under are free.
Audio tours last 35-45 minutes and the stops can be taken in any order. The audio tours cost $9 for adults and $5 for seniors (65 and older) and children (5-17).
For an immersive experience take a look at their special Behind-the-Scenes tours that provide an up-close look at how the center cares for the marine mammals in need.
See the Center's website for more information.
6. Relax on Rodeo Beach
This small, black sand beach in the Marin Headlands has gorgeous views of the water.
People come to surf and sunbathe. Sometimes dolphins show up!
There is also a pond and rolling hills nearby, which are home to a wide variety of birds and other species.
If it's a sunny day, Rodeo Beach is a perfect spot for a picnic or a casual stroll.
7. Bay Area Discovery Museum
This is a family-friendly activity, especially suited to young children. The Bay Area Discovery Museum features several different hands-on exhibits and festivals year-round.
In fact, there are six daily drop-in programs for children as young as 6 months up to 10 years old.
- Hours: Tuesday-Friday from 9 am - 4 pm and Saturday - Sunday from 9 am - 5 pm.
- Ticket prices:
- $15.95 – Adult (ages 18-64)
- $15.95 – Child (ages 1-17)
- $13.95 - Senior (ages 65+)
- $13.95 - Baby (ages 6-11 months)
- $1 off Tickets when you purchase online
See the Museum's website for more information.
To find out about the dozens of museums in the Bay Area see our post on Museums in San Francisco
8. See a Miniature San Francisco
You can see an immense miniature model of the San Francisco Bay area at the Bay Model Visitor Center. Admission is free.
Stretching approximately 320 feet long in the north-south direction and about 400 feet long in the east-west direction, it covers 1.5 acres!
The model was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and originally used for scientific research.
The center is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 am-4 pm. Note that their hours are seasonal so be sure to double-check the Center's website for hours and days when you can visit.
9. Head to Battery Spencer Overlook
Battery Spencer is an overlook with incredible views of the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The best vantage point is on top of Hawk Hill, which is a dirt mound right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
There are also several old abandoned military buildings, which are worth visiting if you're interested in learning more about the area's history.
Parking is free but often limited due to its popularity.
10. Wine & Dine
There are several impressive restaurants that feature a wide range of cuisines, such as seafood, Italian, and Mexican.
Some of the most highly regarded restaurants are Scoma's of Sausalito, Napa Valley Burger Company, and Sushi Ran.
If you are interested in sampling the best of what Sausalito has to offer, you can take a food tour.
Additionally, there are also a number of casual pubs and wine bars around the area that are worth checking out.
Check out our where to eat section below.
Get Ice Cream from Lappert’s
A must-do in Downtown Sausalito is to get an ice cream cone from Lappert’s.
The founder, Michael Lappert, has an affinity for Hawaii and you can see this in some of its flavors: Hawaiian Sea Salt Caramel, Kona Mocha Chip and Kauai Pie.
Don't worry, there are plenty of classics like Cookies and Cream and Rum Raisin.
Traveling with kids? They will go ga-ga for Cookie Monster, bright blue ice cream with cookie dough, and Oreo pieces.
Bring your ice cream small, but cute Plaza Viña del Mar Fountain and Park across the street. You can't miss the park. Just look for two 14-foot-tall elephant statues surrounded by palm trees!
Visit Nearby Muir Woods
Fourteen miles north of Sausalito is Muir Woods, one of the most popular - and most beautiful - places to see when visiting San Francisco.
With its majestic giant redwood trees, Muir Woods is one of the last "old-growth" forests in the Bay Area.
If you are traveling to Sausalito by car, you can easily add a trip to Muir Woods.
If you do not have a car, look into a combined Sausalito and Muir Woods Tour.
Read more about how to visit Muir Woods National Monument.
Sausalito is located approximately 10 miles north of San Francisco, just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.
It is accessible by car, bike, ferry, public buses, and private bus tours. You can even walk there! But it'll take you three hours, so think twice before starting out.
Use this Google map for directions to Sausalito's main pier.
There are several different companies that depart from both the Ferry Building/GGF and Pier 41/B&G throughout the day.
The views are amazing and the trip is only 25-30 minutes each way. It is an efficient, affordable and pleasant way to travel between San Francisco and Sausalito.
See below for how to take the ferry.
Though it will take you three hours, you can walk to Sausalito via the Golden Gate Bridge.
Whether you go to Sausalito or not, you should consider a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge for amazing views of the city and the bay
Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge is an easy way to reach Sausalito and enjoy beautiful views of the Bay.
You should be aware that the journey includes some elevation changes. As you reach the Golden Gate Bridge, the elevation rises by 282 feet, providing panoramic views of the Bay.
Once you cross to the other side and approach Sausalito, the elevation falls by 305 feet. These shifts make the bike ride both challenging and rewarding.
Check out our post on cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge for more information.
The drive to Sausalito takes approximately 22 minutes from central San Francisco. You just cross the Golden Gate Bridge and take the 101 towards Sausalito/Marin County.
Use this link to get directions to Sausalito's main pier.
By Public Bus
This is a very affordable way to go from San Francisco to Sausalito. The trip takes roughly 1 hour and can include multiple transfers, depending on your specific departure point.
One common route is the Marin Transit bus number 30, which departs from various locations in San Francisco and drops you off at Bridgeway and Bay Street in Sausalito.
By Bus Tour
There are several different tour companies that feature stops in Sausalito. Learn more about the best tour companies below.
City Sightseeing Double Decker Buses
Primarily a hop-on-hop-off bus tour company, City Sightseeing offers a few bus tour combo packages that feature visits to Sausalito.
All their tours are fully narrated by a professional tour guide. Their hop-on, hop-off tours give you unlimited access to their 4 different tour routes, one of which is to Sausalito.
1-Day Premium Hop on-Hop Tour- Access to hop on hop off bus tour for 24 hours.
- Official City Tour
- Sausalito Tour
- Free Walking Tour
- 1-hour bike rental (with purchase of another hour)
- $59.99 for Adults
- $46.99 for Children (ages 5-11)
- Note: For just $13 more, you can buy the 2-Day tour below and get a Night Tour and a Madame Tussauds ticket!
2-Day Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour - Access to hop on hop off bus tour for 48 hrs
- Official City Tour
- Sausalito Tour
- Night Tour
- Free Walking Tour
- Madame Tussauds Ticket
- 1-hour bike rental (with purchase of another hour)
- $72.99 for Adults
- $56.99 for Children (ages 5-11)
Muir Woods + Sausalito
- Approximately 4 hours, departing from San Francisco every day at 9:00 am.
- $59.99 for adults ($54.99 if bought online)
- $44.99 for children ($41.99 if bought online).
NOTE: These services do not currently include tours of Sausalito as of July 2023.
CitySightseeing's Golden Gate + Sausalito Tour receives generally positive reviews, with many guests praising the ease of transportation.
The quality of the guided commentary varies depending on the driver, though most visitors find it informative and enjoyable. Their rating on TripAdvisor is 3.5 stars.
Some guests had trouble hearing the driver due to a poor PA system on the bus. Overall, visitors who traveled with CitySightseeing found the experience very enjoyable and straightforward.
TIP: Find out about other bus tour companies and available tours from our post reviewing of San Francisco Hop-On-Hop-Off, and Other Bus Tours.
One of the most popular tour companies in the city, Dylan’s Tours offers several different combo tours which include an exploration of the city and surrounding areas such as Sausalito, Alcatraz, and Muir Woods.
What sets this company apart from the others are its excellent local guides and small group sizes.
San Francisco and Sausalito Tour
- $89 Adults | $59 Children
- Departs daily at 9:30 am
- Duration: 3 hours
- Purchase tickets or learn more.
San Francisco, Sausalito, and Muir Woods Tour
- $99 Adults | $69 Children
- Additional $15 entry fee for Muir Woods for guests 16 years or older.
- Departs daily at 9:30 am
- Duration: 7 hours
- Purchase tickets or learn more.
Guests report back with very positive reviews. The intimacy of the tour, as well as the high quality of the guides, is repeatedly praised by visitors who traveled with Dylan’s Tours.
Though walking tours are not nearly as popular in Sausalito as in San Francisco, there are still highly regarded walking tour companies operating in the area.
Both are small companies with excellent reputations.
Gourmet Food and Wine Tours, is a food and wine tour of the area that includes tastings at 3 different restaurants/wineries.
Travels with Teri Walking Tours, which offers a historic walking tour and a wine-tasting tour of Sausalito.
Gourmet Food and Wine Tours
This specialty food and wine tour company offers a tour of Downtown Sausalito, as well as tours of Napa and Sonoma Valley. The group size averages 4-6 people.
There are a total of 4 wine pairings at different stops, plus coffee and dessert to finish the experience. You even get a free Michelin Guide on Michael Bauer’s Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants!
Length of Tour: 11:30 am-3:00 pm (3+ hours)
Cost: $165 per person
Though this is a relatively new company, it has already earned an excellent reputation. Guests compliment the guides for being incredible hosts and exceedingly knowledgeable.
Others describe the tour as a "real 5-star experience" that shouldn't be missed. Thus, they have a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor.
Travels with Teri Walking Tours
Travels with Teri Walking Tours is a small, boutique walking tour company owned and run by Teri Goldstein, a 16-year veteran in the travel industry.
She currently offers 2 tours in Sausalito: a History Walking Tour and a Wine Tasting Tour.
The company is very small and doesn't have a standard tour schedule, but instead allows guests to make their own private booking up to 72 hours in advance.
To find out what tours they are currently offering, and prices, and to schedule a private tour, email the company at email@example.com.
NOTE: This company is no longer offering tours in San Francisco as of July 2023.
Travels with Teri Walking Tours boasts a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. Guests compliment Teri's knowledge, as well as her impressive ability to make Sausalito's history accessible and interesting.
In addition to visitors raving about her company, Teri's tours also garner praise from Sausalito locals.
For those who are short on time or who prefer to explore on their own, a self-guided tour of Sausalito is an excellent alternative.
Sausalito Chamber of Commerce publishes a detailed map of the area, helping visitors determine where to go and what to see.
This article, How to spend 2 hours or 2 days in Sausalito, is very helpful as is this map of top attractions and restaurants in Sausalito.
Blue & Gold Fleet offers a regular ferry service between Sausalito and San Francisco. The route runs regularly between approximately 9 am-5 pm.
Though there is no audio tour or guided commentary provided during the ride, you do get to experience stunning views of the city -- making this a cheap and easy way to travel to Sausalito AND take in the beautiful San Francisco skyline.
- Service runs from 9:40 am to 5:20 pm
- Duration is 25-30 minutes each way
- A one-way ticket is $13 for adults and $7.50 for children and seniors.
Reviews of Blue & Gold Fleet
Everyone who has used the ferry service between Sausalito and San Francisco seems thrilled with their experience (read the reviews).
Many were especially happy with how convenient it was to travel to Sausalito via ferry, as it allowed them to avoid battling crazy San Francisco traffic.
This is also a great alternative for those who are hesitant to pay for a fully guided tour but still want the experience of cruising through the Bay.
Sausalito is known for its up-and-coming food culture, which boasts a wide selection of cuisines and restaurants.
Seafood is especially renowned in the area, with several restaurants located directly on the water.
Perhaps the most famous eatery in Sausalito, Scoma's is one of the few restaurants that still operates its own fishing vessel.
Scoma offers beautiful views of the city skyline, as well as incredible dishes such as their Lazy Man’s Cioppino and Dungeness crab.
Avatar is a small, family-run restaurant known as the "Purveyors of ethnic confusions since 1989.”
The food is an interesting mix of both Indian and Mexican.
They are most famous for their specialty dessert of almond gelato cake with chocolate, pistachios, mango, and rose petal sauce.
Fred's Coffee Shop has been around since 1966 and is an absolute staple in Sausalito's food scene.
Their impressive breakfasts are the perfect way to start the day. In addition to eggs benedict, lemon ricotta pancakes, and bottomless mimosas, this restaurant is also famed for its "millionaire's bacon."
Barrel House Tavern offers one of the best seaside views in Sausalito.
The menu is relatively high priced but is worth every penny. Additionally, this restaurant also boasts one of the widest ranges of microbrews in the area.
This inviting breakfast and lunch cafe is known for its Scandinavian classics.
Their curried herring paired with an open-face Copenhagen burger is one of the most ordered dishes on the menu, in addition to their Danish meatballs, Norwegian salmon, and pickled beet.
HOTELS IN SAUSALITO
When planning your trip, choosing the right accommodation is essential. Sausalito offers a range of hotel options to suit various budgets and preferences. Here are some recommendations:
- Cavallo Point: A luxury option located near the Golden Gate Bridge, offering sensational views and a spa.
- The Inn Above Tide: Situated on the waterfront, this hotel provides rooms with bay views and is close to local attractions.
- Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa: A boutique hotel located on the hillside, offering a blend of modern and Victorian architecture.
- Hotel Sausalito: A budget-friendly choice in the center of the city, close to shopping and dining options.
Best Times to Visit Sausalito
Spring and summer are the most popular seasons to visit Sausalito. In the spring, the weather starts to warm up, and you can enjoy outdoor activities without the summer crowds. The town comes alive with blooming flowers, and the atmosphere is quite lively.
Summer is another great time to visit. The weather is warm, and you'll find plenty of outdoor events, from music festivals to art shows. Although the area can get busy, the vibrant atmosphere and clear skies make it a worthwhile experience.